I like to give myself labels. I’m a mom, a writer, an artist, a gamer and a geek. Okay, I don’t play many video games anymore, but I do try to keep up with game news. However, I don’t think that simply by stating what I am, will give you an idea of who I am.
I bring this up because the New York Press posted a review by Allen Houston of a reading from some of the authors involved in the short-story anthology “Stories,” which included Neil Gaiman. It’s well known that Neil Gaiman is a rock star in the literary world. His works have a wide range of fans who will wait for hours to get to hear him read and have him sign their books.
However, this article is insulting. To genre writers and their fans. The opening sentence is: “If you wanted to corral every fantasy loving nerd in New York, attending a Neil Gaiman reading would be a good start.” Later in the piece, Allen Houston continues, “Unlike a typical reading where attendees wander off for a drink half way through or examine the ear crust on their pinky as though it were a piece of gold, the balding Goths, girls with jutting chins and faux punks were so reverent that I could hear the hum of the air conditioner.”
To be fair, I read some of his other articles for New York Press, and he’s equally insulting to anyone who attends a function. But let’s focus on this particular slight.
Sci-fi fans have been fighting an uphill battle with their reputation. From the beginning, sci-fi/fantasy fans have been seen as unwashed masses who rarely leave their mother’s basements. Usually then only to visit a comic book store, gaming establishment, or to replenish their Mountain Dew supplies. When comic conventions are mentioned, inevitably people discuss the stench that accompanies the fans.
While this is true of some, it’s hardly what defines the fanbase. Because sci-fi/fantasy covers such a wide range of books, films, games and television shows the fanbase is varied. Go to a comic book convention, and you’ll see a lot of normal people who bathe regularly. You’ll see unbelievably beautiful women who cosplay that you swear must be hired, but really can talk the talk. You’ll realize that there are more than just geeky collectors or goths who attend. It’s people from all walks of life. It’s true, the convention halls tend to stink. But that’s typically due to the sheer number of people packed into a building.
Attend a reading, and you get an even wider array of people who attend. Of course, they’ll listen reverently. Most Neil Gaiman fans wait hours to hear him read, so why would they talk during the readings? Frankly, I think Houston was simply surprised that people attended readings because they wanted to hear what was being read, rather than simply be seen.
But can we please agree that the one thing that identifies someone who loves a genre is their love of it? While we’re at it, let’s agree that the unwashed nerd stereotype being used in an article is simply lazy journalism and let that die out as well.